In earlier episodes we met Pseudomyrmex ants, protectors of the bull-horn acacias through which they reside. It’s possible you’ll recall that on the base of acacia leaves specialised glands known as extrafloral nectaries produce sugar-rich nectar, the supply of carbohydrates for the ant colony residing within the tree. In return for nectar and different vitamins supplied by acacia, ants shield their host timber in a deal crafted eons in the past by Mom Nature. Whereas playing around with acacia ants, I realized how potent their protection might be when one delivered a memorable sting. Many timber and shrubs generally present in our landscapes, together with cherry and peach timber, have related extrafloral nectaries that appeal to ants and so do the peonies that develop in our gardens. Along with protection, scientists hypothesize that nectar produced by these glands could merely be a waste product excreted by the plant. One other risk is that nectar produced by glands on the plant however away from flowers, could lure ants away from blossoms the place they may rob floral nectar used to draw pollinators very important for the plant’s replica.
To discover the protection speculation, I positioned a reasonably massive japanese tent caterpillar on a leaf near a number of carpenter ants dancing about on a flower bud. As you will notice by watching the video, the ants wasted no time attacking the intruder and chasing it from the peony. Simply what you’ll anticipate any good bodyguard to do. Though ants won’t be wanted to tickle open the buds of peonies to assist them bloom, maybe by retaining bud and flower-munching bugs off the plant, they nonetheless play an vital position in serving to peonies thrive and convey their elegant shows to our gardens.